WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) scored another key victory for consumers today when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Reed-authored Sunscreen Innovation Act (S. 2141) by unanimous consent.  Reed’s bill, the result of a years-long campaign for stronger sunscreen standards and labeling, is designed to address a regulatory backlog that is preventing U.S. consumers from having access to advanced, effective sunscreens that are widely available in the rest of the world.  The U.S. Senate passed the bill in September, and the measure now heads to President Obama’s desk where it is expected to become law.

The Sunscreen Innovation Act will help the U.S. catch up to other countries in sunscreen technology by expediting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) review process for active ingredients in sunscreens that have long been approved for use in places like Europe and Canada.  Some of these sunscreen ingredients have been safely used overseas for years, but have had their applications pending before the FDA for over a decade.  The Sunscreen Innovation Act also seeks to shed some light on the FDA’s review process by requiring the agency to periodically report to Congress on the progress of this effort.

“Passage of this bill is good for American consumers and public health, and it’s an example of the type of bipartisan achievements that are possible when both sides come together.  The Sunscreen Innovation Act will help ensure U.S. consumers have access to the safest, most effective sunscreens available.  While the FDA must do its due diligence to ensure the safety of these products, they should do it in a timely manner.  Americans shouldn’t have to wait decades for access to the most advanced, effective sunscreens as they try to better protect themselves from skin cancer.  We want Americans to follow safe sun practices and benefit from the latest advances in sun care products and research,” said Reed (D-RI), who originally introduced the legislation back in March.

Reed’s bill was backed by a bipartisan coalition of 19 U.S. Senators, including his lead cosponsor, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who is a melanoma survivor.  Other key cosponsors included Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN).  Other cosponsors included:  Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Burr (R-NC), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rand Paul (R-KY),  Rob Portman (R-OH), Pat Robert (R-KS), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

In the House, Reed worked on the bill with Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and John D. Dingell (D-MI).  The legislation also received strong backing from leading skin cancer groups and environmental advocates.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 2 million cases diagnosed every year.  A report from the Surgeon General released this summer stated that nearly 5 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancers every year, with an annual cost estimated at $8.1 billion.  Many of these cases could be prevented by protecting skin from sun exposure, according to the American Cancer Society.

Reed has long been a champion of efforts to help Americans better protect themselves from skin cancer.  He led the successful fight to strengthen the FDA’s labeling and testing standards for sunscreen products and has also fought for better consumer disclosures on indoor tanning devices.

To spur the FDA to enact stronger sunscreen standards and oversight, Reed wrote the proposed Sunscreen Labeling Protection (SUN) Act.  After years of delay, the FDA finally implemented new rules requiring sunscreen manufacturers to be clearer about how much protection their products really offer.  The products must state whether they protect against both sunburn-causing ultraviolet B rays and the deeper-penetrating ultraviolet A linked to skin cancer and premature aging.  They may no longer make misleading claims about being “waterproof” or “sweatproof.”

Reed also authored the Tanning Accountability and Notification (TAN) Act, which was signed into law in 2007, directing the FDA to review the warning labels on indoor tanning beds and approve a safe and effective national standard to educate consumers about the risks of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light.  Earlier this year, the FDA announced plans to reclassify sunlamp products and ultraviolet (UV) lamps intended for use in sunlamp products and tanning beds as Class II medical devices.  Reclassifying these ultraviolet tanning devices as moderate risk devices (Class II) will require them to bear warning labels about the risk of cancer, alerting people to the dangers associated with their use.  The manufacturers of these sunlamp products will now include a visible black-box warning on the device that explicitly states that the sunlamp product should not be used on persons under the age of 18 years.  In addition, certain marketing materials for sunlamp products and UV lamps must include specific warning statements.

Earlier this year Reed teamed up with the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Rhode Island Hospital for the “Sun Smarts” campaign, which offered free skin cancer screenings at local beaches around the state.  The goal of the free screenings was to raise awareness about skin cancer and help catch cases of skin cancer in their earliest, most treatable stages and educate the public about effective sun protection.

Now that it is has been passed by the full U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill will be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.